Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Site Alteration Bylaw Update

I wanted to give you a bit of an update regarding the proposed Site Alteration Bylaw. I believe this especially important because misinformation continues to be circulated around Pelham and Niagara.

You will recall that following complaints and the suggestion from some rural residents, the Town began considering the introduction of a Site Alteration Bylaw.

Many other municipalities have enacted a bylaw of this nature because it allows a Cities or Towns to regulate activities with the potential for environmental degradation (dumping, erosion, sedimentation, etc...), drainage problems (blockages, impact on neighbouring properties, etc…) and public nuisance (tracking of mud on roads, dust, etc…).

The Town convened a public information session in August to give people an opportunity to ask questions and provide written comment.

Following that input, Council decided to hear directly from concerned residents about the matter. We convened a public meeting to receive feedback in late-September, 2011. Farmers, nursery operators, and sod growers asked to be exempt for "normal farm practices"; landscapers asked for exemptions for their business activities. Some of the neighbours of existing “berms” implored Council to act and to regulate that activity and the dumping of construction material on good farm lands. Others asked Council to stop consideration of any "infringement of property rights."

Based on that public meeting, Town Staff developed a draft bylaw and presented it to Council on December 19. The staff recommendation at the time was to advertise in local media and make the draft by-law available for public comment until early-February.

However, because Councillors had only a couple of days to review the draft, Council postponed the discussion on the matter to our January 16, 2012 meeting.

At that January meeting, Council debated a proposal to limit the bylaw to deal exclusively with the construction of “berms” and “the contamination of agricultural land with inappropriate fill.” That motion was lost.

The majority of Councillors wanted to not just limit the bylaw to those areas, but also deal with other issues raised by the public through letters and comment. Others wanted the bylaw to be clearer in language and meaning.

In the end, the draft was sent back to staff to rework the bylaw based on Council’s input. It is scheduled to return to General Committee in March.

Should Council find the new draft acceptable, I would assume that we will then provide the final draft to members of the public for comment and suggestions.